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Poland

Three-generational, Extended Family Versus Nuclear Family

In the Polish tradition, maintaining close relationships within the family is well established. This applies to siblings and three-generational, extended family members.

Among factors limiting number of children in urban families is the housing shortage, which has been a problem since World War II. Despite the shortage, three-generational, extended families are common, even in urban areas. Housing shortages are especially stressful for young couples who intend to start families. A study conducted in 1999 pointed out that 23.0 percent of the adults—including young couples—in the research sample lived with their parents. In urban areas, approximately 33 percent of respondents aged eighteen to thirty-four lived with parents or other relatives (Wciórka 1999). Under such circumstances, conveying ideas from one generation to another and influencing them would be common and understandable. Even those grandparents who live separately from their adult children frequently supervise grandchildren whose mothers have daily full-time employment.

Under socialism, inexpensive childcare (state subsidized) and numerous family benefits policies were among the advantages for women in being employed. After 1989, the benefits that had been available under the socialist government were reduced. They included free tuition at universities and other schools, free medical care and medications, and subsidized child-care institutions. These circumstances, combined with inflation, have put family budgets under pressure and have made assistance from extended family members appreciated.

Many families share housing with several generations because the persistent housing shortage, low incomes, and high rents leave them no choice. Such arrangements not only provide care for grandchildren, but also serve as a factor in decreasing financial burdens for the retirees who are limited to their small pensions (Trafialek 1997; Dyczewski, 1994). Such arrangements are determined by economic conditions and serve all generations involved. They also enable adult children (mostly women) to serve as caregivers to their ailing parents.

Several studies conducted before 1989 pointed out that families were characterized by a similarity of values that persisted across generations. This phenomenon was interpreted as an outcome of intergenerational transmission of values prompted by long years of hardships and adversity (e.g., political instability, wars, control by foreign rulers, low standard of living). As the country makes the transition to democracy and capitalism, it is expected that people will modify their values and emphasize self-expression, a better quality of life, and more TABLE 2

TABLE 2 Urban and rural families by number of children in percent, Poland
Families by number of children
Year Total = 100% No children 1 child 2 children 3 children 4 children & more
1970 - total 8,197,000 20.5 30.8 27.1 12.6 9.0
urban 4,361,000 20.0 34.7 29.4 10.6 5.1
rural 3,836,000 21.0 26.5 24.5 15.0 13.0
1978 - total 9,435,000 22.2 34.9 28.1 9.6 5.2
urban 5,530,000 36.9 27.4 23.2 8.4 4.1
rural 3,836,000 20.9 26.6 24.5 15.0 13.0
1988 - total* 10,226,191** 29.3 24.6 24.7 8.1 3.3
urban 6,344,000 29.0 24.6 24.7 8.1 3.3
rural 3,862,000 43.1 19.4 21.3 10.5 5.7
1995 - total 10,533,428 23.6 36.2 29.0 8.2 2.8
urban 6,644,186 23.8 36.2 29.0 8.2 2.8
rural 3,889,242 23.2 28.7 26.0 13.6 8.5
* - Data for 1988 include children 24 years of age and younger, living with parents in the same household
** - Excludes children over 24 years of age (adults in the same, or a separate household)
SOURCE: Based on data from the following sources:
Rocznik Statystyczny 1981 (Statistical Yearbook 1981). Warsaw: Central Statistical Office, 1981: 54.
Rocznik Statystyczny 1990 (Statistical Yearbook 1990). Warsaw: Central Statistical Office, 1990: 53.
Rocznik Statystyczny 2000 (Demographic Yearbook 2000). Warsaw: Central Statistical Office, 2000: 93.

significance of individuals' rights and privileges than duties and obligations. Such a switch in values is expected to widen the generation gap.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsPoland - Changes In Population And Demographic Structure Since The 1960s, Legislation Applied To Marriage, The Family, And Working Mothers